I’m gay, and proud of it!
I was born in Saigon, Vietnam in the 80’s. Back then, homosexuality was not common. If a guy acted in a feminine way, he would be laughed at and/or given a well-known label, “be de” (a Vietnamese word that has its French origin meaning: fag). The term was commonly used. It could easily hurt someone’s feelings and lower their self-esteem. I certainly had this experience ever since the age of 5.
Being the youngest in a family of 4 children, I found myself spending more time with my 2 older sisters playing with dolls, tea sets and dress up. My brother, who was on the opposite end of the spectrum, participated in all the boyish and adventurous activities e.g., football, karate, running around with bare feet… I admired him for that as he was much loved by the kids in the neighbourhood and my relatives. I, on the other hand, was known to be the quiet one who was good at art, singing, dancing and literature. Most of my close friends were girls and I found them to be easy to talk to as we shared common interests. As a result, I was automatically placed in a “different” category and name-calling was not an exception. I went through my childhood feeling attracted to the same sex. I thought that it was just a stage of development that would pass in time. I even thought that, when I grew up, I would get married and have kids just like everyone else.
At 15, I was not progressing well in school. I used to be at the top of my class in Primary school. However, for some reason, my marks were lower than expected as I became older. At the end of year 10, I asked my parents if I could leave Saigon in order to be with my other siblings who were completing their studies in Brisbane, Australia. At the time, my parents were successful entrepreneurs and so I was lucky to be flown to Brisbane, where I finished my High School and Tertiary education.
Growing up with my Christian beliefs, I used to tell myself that “homosexuality is a sin”. I kept the secret to myself until I was 21 when I met my first boyfriend at a social gathering. That was one of the happiest moments of my life. Living in an open-minded country like Australia allowed me to be myself. I made new friends to whom I came out, and they had offered me a tremendous amount of support. Throughout my teenage years into adulthood, I was not around my family and therefore they did not know much about my “other life”. My parents often tried to match-make me with a nice girl every time I came back to visit them in Saigon. I often kept quiet about my lifestyle in Australia as knowing the truth could potentially disappoint my family. At 24, I moved to Sydney where my second relationship took place. Up to this point, I’d never had a girlfriend. People often questioned my sexuality. I was fed up with social expectations.
I decided to come out to my siblings. To my surprise, they indicated that they’d known for quite awhile now, and that it was ok for me to be whoever I wanted to be. They would still love me regardless of my sexual orientation. Pheww! What a relief to know that I was very much loved and supported by my brother and sisters.
The next step was to tell my parents. I often avoided the question of marriage. Until one day, a few months before I turned 30, my Mum directly asked me: “Binh, since you’re turning 30 soon, it’s time to think about finding the right girl and getting married…”. I thought to myself, this is the moment. So I replied, “Mum, I’m interested in men.”. Mum did not respond or appeared angry. She remained calm but did not look at me. So I turned to my Dad and said: “Dad, I’m sure you guys have known about this already!”.Dad said: “Yes! We’ve known about this for awhile…and at this stage, I don’t think it really matters. We are open-minded and as long as you’re happy, that’s all I care about!”. I was in tears. That was much easier than I thought.
Both of my parents passed away not long after that due to terminal illnesses.
I’m glad that I came out to them as they are my parents and have the right to know.
I currently am in a happy and healthy relationship with Brett, the man I love. We live together in Sydney.
One might think she/he has to be ready to come out. In my opinion, it is a progressive process which involves a number of small steps that should be considered in order to achieve the ultimate goal:
1. Come out to yourself: Get to know yourself well: your strengths, weaknesses, interests and sexual orientation. Accept and love yourself for who you are because at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself for the rest of your life.
2. Come out to your close friends: Coming out to your close friends is a good place to start. Some will be happy for you. Some will be confused. Some will get upset. Just come out anyway! You will at least receive much-needed support.
3. Come out to your siblings: If you have siblings, come out to them. Like it or not, they are related to you by blood and they need to know the truth. You’re now a step closer to telling your parents!
4. Come out to your parents: This can be the biggest challenge! Take a plunge and tell them when the right moment comes e.g., when they ask you about your relationship status or suggest that you get a BF or GF. You will feel so much better afterwards. Parents often have great expectations of their kids and some will find it hard to accept the truth. Time will tell if they are able to live with this truth or not.
5. Come out to the world: Now that you’ve gone through all of the previous steps (remember, it doesn’t have to be in that particular order), it’s time to come out to the world and let them know how proud you are to be yourself!
Researchers and statistics have shown that suicidal ideation and attempted suicidal rates among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and questioning youth are comparatively higher than among the general population. As a matter of fact, 9 out of 10 LGBT teens have reported being bullied at school within the past year because of their sexual orientation (http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/gay-bullying-statistics.html). A number of studies conducted by Susan Cochran, PHD, on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual population at the University of California (http://www.apa.org/monitor/feb02/newdata.aspx) indicated the followings:
- “Higher rates of recurrent major depression among gay men.
- Higher rates of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and substance use or dependence in lesbian and gay youth.
- Higher rates of anxiety, mood and substance use disorders, and suicidal thoughts among people ages 15 to 54 with same-sex partners.
- Higher use of mental health services in men and women reporting same-sex partners.”
By encouraging people to come out and to be comfortable with their sexual orientation, we can prevent the above from happening. I am a strong advocate for this movement.
While “hiding” in the closet, I missed out on a chance to “seek” my truth. By coming out, I am being true to myself and others and live a happier life. Coming out is hard, but not coming out is even harder.
Be true to yourself. Be happy.
Love and peace to you.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss your “coming out” strategies, please feel free to contact me by filling out your information or contact Speakable to learn more about how my confidence coaching can help.